Ply the shores of the Irish Sea by bike for an exhilarating race along one of our most windswept coasts.
This circular route takes you from the tranquil shores of Strangford Lough to the remote shores of the Irish Sea, affording views of the Isle of Man on a clear day.
The roads tend to be quiet at the southern end of the Ards Peninsula but be aware of other road users. The terrain is rated as ‘medium’ and may prove challenging in some sections.
Portaferry is located at the southern end of the Ards Peninsula. It can be reached via the main bus service operating from Belfast Laganside Bus Centre, which stops in The Square, Portaferry. For timetable information please visit translink.co.uk or contact 028 9066 6630.
By car from Belfast, take the A20 to Newtownards, and continue on the A20 to Portaferry. By car from Downpatrick, travel via the A25 to Strangford and continue with the short trip on the Strangford Ferry to Portaferry. Ferry times are available from roadsni.gov.uk.
Parking is available in Portaferry at Meeting House Street, The Square and also at Exploris Aquarium. Disabled parking is also available.
Leaving Portaferry town centre, follow the route north along the A2 towards Cloughey. This road is an inland route but arrival in Cloughey affords stunning views of the Irish Sea and the expansive bay that has won recent awards.
Travel south again towards Kearney and this will take you along a section of the National Cycle Route number 99. As you cycle along this road, the Irish Sea will be on your left.
A slight detour from cycle route 99 will lead you to the National Trust of Kearney with its beautifully preserved collection of whitewashed cottages and houses. After your visit to Kearney, travel back onto National Cycle Route 99 (again with the Irish Sea on your left hand side) towards Knockinelder Bay with its pretty scenery.
Back on the road, continue on the route towards Ballyquintin Point before looping away from the Irish Sea and now the Narrows and Strangford Lough on your left. Travelling past the Narrows you can see the spectacular tidal races that occur twice a day. The route now continues at your own pace back into Portaferry and your starting point.
Portaferry has a long history originating in the 12th century as a group of fishermen’s cottages beside an Anglo-Norman castle. The ruins of Portaferry Castle still remain as evidence of a 16th-century tower house.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the village was developed by the Nugent family with a central square containing a market place. High above Portaferry is Windmill Hill with the old ruins a prominent landmark on the skyline.
Cloughey, meaning ‘stony place’ in Irish, has a wide, award-winning beach suitable for a range of water sports including kite and windsurfing and acres of sand dunes which support wildflowers. During the Second World War, the American Air Force developed an airfield at nearby Kirkistown that was turned into a racing track.
Kearney is a showpiece village, with pretty whitewashed cottages and houses carefully restored by the National Trust to give the authenticity of a traditional fishing village. The village lies three miles to the east of Portaferry with views across to Scotland, the Isle of Man and the mountains of Mourne.
Wild, windswept and remote, Ballyquintin Point forms the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula. It lies on a low, exposed, rocky coastline consisting of small promontories, bays, inlets and islands. The coastal path passes through farmland, rocky shore and beach owned and managed by the National Trust and through the nature reserve which is owned and managed by NIEA.
The point is formed by a raised beach of shingle and cobble stones, gently sloping inland to low cliffs. Such deep banks of raised beach shingle, vestiges from the last ice-age, are found nowhere else around the Ulster coast. You can take in views across Strangford Lough to Killard Point and across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man on a clear day.
Bird species to look out include skylarks, linnets, peregrine falcons, buzzards, kestrels and Brent geese and the coastal grassland features some sensitive and rare flowers, including orchids and wind-dwarfed Burnett rose. Look out for Irish hares and common seals that can be seen on the rocks at the mouth of Bar Hall Bay.
For further information on cycling or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at 028 9030 3930 or cycleni.com.
CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.
Cycle Name: Portaferry Circular Route.
Area: Strangford Lough.
Nearest town to start point: Portaferry.
Distance: 22 miles circular route
Terrain: The terrain is rated as ‘medium’ and may prove challenging in sections. The route is based mainly on public roads.
Access Restrictions: There are no major restrictions on this route but cyclists should be aware that while the roads are relatively quiet at the southern end of the Ards Peninsula, attention must be paid to other road users when cycling.
Refreshments: Refreshment facilities are available in Portaferry and also Cloughey. Sandy beaches along the route are ideal for a picnic stop.
Publications: Further information on this route is available from cycleni.com
Map: Sheet 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series (lpsni.gov.uk)